Use an Internship Abroad to Build Personal Brand, Showcase Global Experience, Stand Out

When Figuring Out Your Personal Brand, Social Media Guru Erik Deckers Says: “How do you want people to feel when they think about the prospect of working with you or meeting with you?”

By Stacey Hartmann
GlobaLinks NewsWire Editor

Erik Deckers didn’t intern or study abroad when he was in college, but the co-author of “Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself” knows exactly what he’d do if he returned today from such an international experience.

He’d blog. He’d Facebook. He’d Tweet. And most importantly, he’d use the best of the available social media tools to build a personal brand that defined him to employers.

In fact, Deckers’ book on branding is now provided as a resource to participants of the GlobaLinks Learning Abroad internship program so they can maximize the global career-building experience gained from their internships abroad.

“For one thing, I never got to do that,” Deckers says of interning or studying abroad. “I look back now, and I really wish I had. I’ve traveled overseas since then, but to be able to immerse myself in a culture – I think that would have been valuable and one of the most exciting times of my life.”

The Indianapolis-based social media expert, humorist and blogging consultant built his own brand over 18 years in sales in marketing by writing blogs, using social media and meeting lots of people. His books on social media marking, branding and Twitter, including his contributions to “Twitter Marketing for Dummies,” came about because he was constantly answering questions about blogging and social media tools.

“I’m finding that I’m able to redefine my brand by whom I network with or whom I connect with,” he says. “If I connect with writers or people who want to be writers, that becomes the thing I’m known for. But if I want to cast myself as a personal branding coach, I’d go out and look for other job coaches and recruiters. I’d start talking about personal branding or job search.”

Deckers encourages internship abroad participants to avoid boiling down their experiences to one sentence on their resumes. He recommends they instead use their internships to define how they want to be known and what kind of emotional responses they want to evoke as they network and encounter people, whether virtually or in person.

“How do you want people to feel when they think about the prospect of working with you or meeting with you?” Deckers says. “Everything should be geared toward that.”

While there are many experiences, skills and characteristics that go into building a personal brand, an internship abroad, in particular, is a major opportunity for a student or recent graduate to demonstrate a host of positive qualities that define them.

To maximize the opportunity, students should blog about their internship experience, their educational intentions, career goals, and other aspects of their lives. Doing so does much more than give an account of where they’ve been or what they’ve done, he says. It demonstrates their thought processes and their writing skills, which are increasingly important in the business world.

To Deckers, an internship abroad is evidence of “someone who brings his or her A game.”

“There is also in my mind an aura of super confidence for the people who can do that,” he says. “Competence, confidence, ability.”

Erik Deckers

“I would have no problem getting someone to move to Indianapolis or New York City for a job,” he says, “if he or she had just spent time in another country.”

Potential employers and hiring managers will view an internship abroad in the same way, but only if interns convey it well through the many means of communication available these days.

“Take five minutes here and there and write a few smart Tweets,” he says. “Or take a half hour every day and connect with three people on LinkedIn. Or take an hour and meet with them for coffee.”

Some students are attuned to the importance of building a personal brand, but others don’t have it on their radar or don’t worry about it until they’ve thrown their graduation cap into the air.

“We’re talking about our careers and the rest of our lives,” he says, “and finding the things that make money and make us happy doing it.”

Spending the time and making the mental effort to develop a personal brand, especially after an internship abroad, is well worth it, he says.

“It’s better than spending 15 years in a cube farm you never really liked.”

Editor’s note: Stay tuned for another article from our interview with Erik Deckers featuring tips and things to avoid when building a personal brand.

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  1. [...] experiences may confirm social media expert Erik Decker’s opinions on the value of international internships. Decker believes that prospective employers will readily [...]



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